Musical Outlaw Fabio on the Birth of Rage and the Jungle Sound

From the DJ History archives: UK legend Fabio breaks down the early days of clubbing in London

PYMCA / Universal Images Group

As one of the resident DJs at Rage, alongside Grooverider, DJ and producer Fabio became one of the core figures of the early jungle scene. Every Thursday night at the London club Heaven, from late ’88 until late ’93, Fabio and Grooverider helmed an exploding club scene of radical electronic music alongside parties like Paul Oakenfold’s acid rave riot, Spectrum. A Londoner born and bred, Fabio’s early days were a mix of blues, soul, early house and acid music, and saw him travel across the city and between social groups in ways that have informed his music and mindset. In this interview with Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, from the DJ History archives, Fabio tells his story.

Let’s start with where you grew up.

I grew up in Brixton, London. Music was always around me. My dad was a good record buyer [and he had] brilliant tunes. Not a massive collection, but a great collection of ska, Motown and stuff like that – across the board black music. He loved ballads, too, like Marvin Gaye. Growing up in Brixton, there was a massive blues party scene going on. Round the corner from me there was a place called Elland Park. On a Saturday night, you could have five or six parties going on, all with sound systems. I could hear them from my house. They were in people’s houses, or they used to rig up sound systems in old squats (there were a lot of squats in those days). We used to go to the local blues parties when I was 13 or 14 years old. I had a whale of a time, man. That got me into going out and being in this place with loud music playing. It was great because the blues scene was the original club scene, on one level: using huge sound systems, having MCs, not mixing, but with the whole emphasis on loud sounds.

And this is very much Jamaicans doing over here what they used to do over there.

That’s right – and bringing it over here. We used to go to regular clubs: the sound systems were so crap, and you’d get DJs talking shit all night. “The next one is, A-Ha, ‘Take On Me.’’ It wasn’t like that at all. You’d have the host, the MC and the guy who used to play music – it was kind of like this narration. You weren’t that aware of what was going on, but it was brilliant. Those were my first indulgences in music.

Growing up in Brixton was great because of the vibe. Brixton’s very colorful and you can’t really escape the music thing. Music and crime. You had these two areas where you could go if you didn’t want to do a 9-to-5 job. Either be a criminal or be, not necessarily a DJ, but have something to do with music. There wasn’t no money in it or nothing. It was strictly for breaking premises and having a party till 1PM.

Did people charge [to get into the parties]?

They did. They used to charge like £2 on the door. The whole thing, though, was going in and buying drinks. They used to have a little bar set up and stuff like that. It was all very civilized, but it was also really dangerous because we were mixing with hardened Brixton criminals. You stepped on someone’s lizard skin shoes, man, and it was curtains – for real, serious. It was like Goodfellas. You don’t fuck with these guys.

There was one guy in particular, One Dread. He was so smooth and he used to do this slow rubbing thing with girls. He could dance with a girl and skin up a spliff at the same time. We used to watch him, “He’s the fucking man.” It was this whole mad thing. The dangerous thing was a lot of people wanted to be like them. I did as well, but luckily I was more into music than wanting to go out on the rob.

Was it inseparable?

The DJs were the guys who decided “We want to set up our sound system here, and play our music.” The guys – the criminals – used to follow them around because all the girls used to be there. And, of course, wherever there are nice girls, there are criminals. And it was great: here were these beautiful women that wouldn’t look at you [before these parties]. You never had a chance. We were like 14-years old and they were 21-years old. At around 9AM, they’d slow it down and you had to ask a girl for a dance. I think I had one dance in the three years I was going to blues parties. I was so nervous – I think she walked away halfway through it. It was the earliest memory I have of being captured by the whole club thing. Then things moved on and I got into the whole soul scene.

You didn’t meet any white people at blues parties... it was 99% black. But at soul parties, it was 50/50. That was the first time I’d ever seen that, and when I saw that color didn’t really matter.

Did you think that reggae was your music, because you grew up here?

I felt reggae and soul music. I was kind of divided. In them days as well, you couldn’t really be both. You had to be one or the other. I remember they used to say, “If you like soul music, you’re gay.” A cousin of mine used to go to soul clubs, and she used to sneak me in and I never used to tell anybody. Then, at the weekend, I used to go to the blues dances. Once a girl said to me: “I saw you in Crackers on Wardour Street.” “No you didn’t.” She was like, “No, it was you.” And everybody was like, “Boy, I hope that weren’t you.” “Nah, a soul club, are you crazy?” When I was 15 or 16 years old, I ventured more into going to Crackers and a place called 100 Club, and got into the whole soul movement.

Was it the teen disco on a Saturday lunchtime that you went to at the 100 Club?

I went to the adults one. I looked 18 years old when I was about 8 years old. I used to wear a little waistcoat and a shirt. My auntie used to get me in there. This was on Friday lunchtimes – I would tell my mum that I was just popping down the road.

The Friday lunch thing – was it at Crackers?

Yeah. A guy called George Power used to play there. Paul Anderson, man, trust me, man, because he was old then (in the mid-’70s). Crackers was an amazing club. People used to go there and just dance. Everyone got on it and there were amazing import records from America. It was fresh and vital at the time.

What was it that attracted you? Every black kid in London we’ve interviewed says that Crackers was amazing: Norman Jay, Jazzie B, Cleveland Anderson, all of them.

I tell you what was so great: going into a place and seeing that it was mixed. You didn’t meet any white people at blues parties. Very rarely, you used to meet the odd white guy that knew the local guys, but it was 99% black. But at soul parties, it was 50/50. That was the first time I’d ever seen that, and when I saw that color didn’t really matter. You could go out with a white girl and it weren’t no big thing. A white guy would go out with a black girl, and you could hang out with white guys. It wasn’t an issue. You had white DJs, you had black DJs, and it was the first time I’d felt this social thing: “I can hang out with white people, it’s all good.” You could do what you wanted in Crackers. The DJ never talked. He never mixed but he kind of segued the tracks, so it was this seamless mixture of funk and soul. It was amazing. You didn’t know that in 20-odd years, you’d still be referring to this place. It was just a place you went to on a Saturday afternoon and had a wicked time.

Do you remember any of the tunes?

Roy Ayers - “Running Away”

“Running Away” by Roy Ayers was a big tune. They played that every week – and “Movin’” by Brass Construction. They used to play the tunes that you knew as well as the real fresh imports from the States. It was funk, but funk is dirty soul, isn’t it? Funk was grimier than soul, not as produced and a little more dancefloor-orientated. I used to go down there and just lose it.

If you were a dancer, did you look up to guys like Peter Francis and Horace?

Those guys! There was Horace and a guy called John O’Reilly, who used to dance for Paul Anderson. There were a whole lot of them – instead of looking up to criminals, I was looking up to them. They were getting all the girls. When you’re young, that’s what it’s all about. And they were cool. They used to dance and everyone used to crowd round them. They’d walk off with the best-looking girl at the end of the night. It was that same thing [at the soul parties as at the blues parties]: looking up to these guys and thinking that I wanted to be like them.

Luckily, I took that road. Colin Dale, who was my dancing partner, and I, we used to go out, tour and dance around. There were a few clubs you couldn’t get into: like Global Village, which was on Saturday night; Lacey Lady, another one that you had to be over 18 years old to go to. We didn’t travel to them places, but we did for all the central London places.

If it was such a hot scene, why were people so against it, with the whole reggae vs. soul thing?

I think that, even in the days of the mods and the rockers, that there were divides within the soul scene. The jazz dancers used to think that we were pussies for liking funk. Jazz is about going around dancing at 100 miles an hour. When we used to go to the Electric Ballroom, there would be fights with guys coming from rival soul clubs – with the jazz boys and the soul heads. They’d be like, “You guys are pussies – all that pussy music you listen to.” It was about wanting to belong to a certain clique.

Do you think that the reggae and soul thing was also rooted in a slightly older group whose allegiance to the West Indies was slightly stronger than the younger kids who had grown up in London? Do you think there was a kind of split there? Most of the guys we’ve spoken to were looking for a British identity, and reggae didn’t fit that.

I don’t think consciously we were doing that – and it really wasn’t a movement. It was more like a local thing, happening all around London. There were blues parties in Battersea, Clapham and all over south London. You did used to follow sounds, but it wasn’t a movement in the way that the soul clubs were a movement. This was about going out into the West End, too. You’ve got to remember – the West End was the place.

It’s neutral. It’s not a neighborhood.

It was a travelling thing: getting ready, dressing up to go out. We couldn’t afford to buy clothes in the West End, so the only way that you could go to the West End was to go to clubs or to buy records. The whole thing of buying imports – of getting things first – came from the soul scene more than from the reggae scene. They used to play a lot of old stuff: Alton Ellis, stuff like that. It wasn’t really a forward moving thing.

It’s more about having a dubplate than the latest thing.

Exactly – and it was more localized. If you went to a blues dance in Battersea they’d be like, “You guys aren’t from round here.” You could seriously get yourself in trouble. The Brixton sounds stayed in Brixton. The soul scene was different. You used to meet people from Wembley [coming to soul parties in Brixton] and we’d be like, “Wembley, where the fuck’s that?” And Ilford. Ilford? Never heard of it. We’re from Brixton. “It’s a bit dodgy down there.” Then the soul movement took on a whole new lease of life with Caister.

I was a real trainspotter. I used to know the serial numbers of certain tracks: my friend and I used to listen to brand new tracks and try to guess who the producer was.

Did you get involved in that?

To be fair, I didn’t. None of us drove, and we used to hear about this Caister thing, but by the time we wanted to get in it was kind of like an exclusive club. It was a very white scene – Caister was 80% white – which was bizarre. In them days, Essex was known for being the bastion of racism, and you had the National Front then, so we were like, “What are these guys doing, being into soul music?” It was bizarre, it really was.

When did you first start DJing?

I was collecting records. My buddy Colin Dale was a soul DJ and I’d follow him around. The idea of DJing never really struck me. I wanted to be a singer or be involved in production. I was a real trainspotter. I used to know the serial numbers of certain tracks: my friend and I used to listen to brand new tracks and try to guess who the producer was: “Right, who produced this then?” “Well, it sounds like the drums could be Harvey Mason, and the bassline could be the Brothers Johnson” – and a lot of the time, we were right. We used to sit there all night and do this, as well as listen to pirate radio from 1AM to 5AM.

DJing never really came into it until my first gig, which was at a place called Gossips in the West End, for Tim Westwood. We used to follow him when he was a soul DJ and Colin Dale used to do the warm up down there. One night, Tim phoned me up and was like, “I really need you to play.” I was like, “Cool, man...”

He went into that electro thing in a big way.

This was literally months before that happened. When I DJed there and when tunes like “Change” were around, it was the most horrific experience. I was absolutely bricking it and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I walked away thinking, “Nah, I don’t want to do this.” Then the early electro scene started. That was very exciting. We used to go to Global Village on a Sunday night. Behind this as well, was the electronic thing. Because we were soul boys, we were like, “Man, this electronic thing’s taking away the soul of it...” but tracks like “Planet Rock,” and all the early Tommy Boy stuff was irresistible. There was also a guy called Yakamoto...

Ryuichi Sakamoto - “Riot In Lagos”

Ryuichi Sakamoto?

Yeah. He done a tune called “Riot In Lagos,” which was even more incredible to me than “Planet Rock.” I caught the bug but the soul boys dissed me for it: “I can’t believe you’re into this electro shit, man.” I moved from scene to scene, but I felt honored to be part of the early electro scene. People diss Tim Westwood, but that guy was in it from dot, man. He changed the game. He stopped playing soul and went full steam into electro. We used to go to Spats on a Saturday afternoon and people would be breaking. We were into the Wild Style thing, all of that shit.

Where was Spats?

On Oxford St: just opposite 100 Club, where Plastic People was. It was a little hovel downstairs. It was a wicked little space with a great dancefloor.

How did the house thing come about?

The turning point for everything for me came through a pirate radio station called Phase 1. In ’84, around the same time that Kiss FM were trying to go legal, a guy called Mendoza was setting up a new station and said, “I want all of you local guys to come in and do a show.”

It was a Brixton thing, right next to a pub, and he had a shebeen (an afterhours place) downstairs. He owned the building because he was in construction. Upstairs, he had the pirate station. Downstairs, he had the shebeen. Downstair was our local, but no one ever used to go: he never had more than six people down there on a Saturday night. We used to go there, get pissed, go upstairs and play some music. It was a great set-up.

I had an afternoon soul show, where I used to play funk and really early house and electro. One night, this guy Mendoza said to me, “Listen – I got a brother called Chris and, man, he knows some guy called Paul Oakenfold and they’ve got this mad thing. Have you ever heard of Spectrum?” I said “No,” and he said, “What we’re going to try and do is do some after-parties.” I said, “Right, I’m going to check out Spectrum next week.”

We went down to Spectrum that Monday night. Me and a couple of lads from Brixton walked in and they were like, “What the hell is going on here?” Everyone we saw was wearing smiley t-shirts, had big eyes, they were chewing their teeth – walking around in another world. Then, they fucked off and left me in there. They were like, “You know what? It’s like we’ve walked into hell. We’re going back to Brixton.” I remember looking up and seeing Paul Oakenfold among the smoke, and looking like a fucking god up there. I was like, “My God, this is absolutely fucking amazing.”

I started going there every week by myself. To cut a long story short, he said, “We’re going to have an after-party down there. Would you like to play?” I said, “What, in Mendoza’s? You’re going to have an after-party? No way are they gonna come down there.” He said, “No, man, the only other guy I know who plays house on the station is Grooverider.”

I agreed, but I didn’t know Groove that well. Groove was quite arrogant and aggressive. He used to do the night time shows. He said, “Get down there for about 1AM.” Me and Groove was in there all night and no one came down – not a dickie bird. Groove had to go to work – he was working with computers at the time – so he said, “Listen, Mendoza, I’m off.”

They knew they could come down there, and that it would go till 4PM. People used to go home, take their kids to school, have a wash and come back at 1PM.

We was loading the records up in the car when we saw these guys walking down the alleyway going [Northern English accent] “Where’s the fookin’ party?” Shorts, in the middle of winter. A pair of shorts, a Union Jack tattoo on his back, a skinhead, going like that. “I want to hear some fookin’ music, right.” He goes downstairs. We go in and think, “We’d better play for this guy, or else he’s going to kill us or something.” He was on his own, just doing this all night [Fabio: mad dancing moves] and putting his head in the speaker. Mendoza was like, “It’s alright, he’s buying drinks, just carry on playing.”

At 1AM Groove went upstairs, came back and said, ‘”Oh my God, there are hundreds of people down this alleyway!” All of a sudden, all these people just rushed in there and was pilled up. It was absolutely rammed, so we decided to make this a regular occurrence. We used to do it on Monday and Tuesday nights. I think we had a night off on Wednesday, because there was nothing going on, but there was a thing on Tuesday called Samantha’s, they used to come down after that, and there was a thing on Thursday. On the weekends, we just took it over.

In the end, he said, “Listen, do you guys want to have the weekend nights?” We said, “Cool.” We did our own flyers. Groove bought a Ford Cortina for £60 and we’d go down to the Trip at the Astoria, to give out flyers there, and the rest is history. We had something going on every single week for about two years. That really got us known. Oakenfold used to come down, Trevor Fung used to come down. We met a lot of the big promoters and we got a lot of work out of it, man. That was the start of the whole Fabio and Grooverider thing.

Did it ever have a name?

No – it was just Mendoza’s. It didn’t have a name or anything. People didn’t give a shit. They knew they could come down there, and that it would go till 4PM. People used to go home, take their kids to school, have a wash and come back at 1PM. That’s what makes me laugh: when people say, “Can you play for two hours?” What!? It was happy days, man.

What was Spectrum like, drugs-wise?

Spectrum was crazy. In Spectrum, every single person was out of it.

How quickly did you catch on to what was going on?

It was the third time that I went there. It was quite scary, though – pretty hellish. That’s why a lot of people turned their back on it. The music was so loud, the lights were so intimidating and it was very balearic. The music wasn’t soulful. You’ve got to remember that. The music was this kind of flamenco mixture. A lot of the urban guys were like, “Fucking hell.” And then acid – it was extreme. At the time, it was like punk, but because of the background of listening to electro, we kept up with electronic music. We were like, “This shit, man, it is so fucking extreme.” Groove was always extreme. Groove was into Public Image Ltd and stuff like that, so he was, “THIS IS ME, YEEEAAH.”

Elkin & Nelson ‎– “Jibaro”

How soon did you get him to go down to Spectrum?

Groove is so completely teetotal, so he came down there and was literally in there for half an hour and said, “I am getting the fuck out of this place. I love the music, but this out of the head business is... I’ll meet you down at Mendoza’s. You stay here.” I was like, “OK, cool. Oakey’s playing, let me just stare at him, man...” I didn’t want him to think... he might have thought I was gay or something, with this hero worship, man. I was like, “No man, he’s gonna play ‘Jibaro’ in a minute.” Groove wasn’t so much into balearic music. Groove was much more into Fast Eddie and the soulful acid coming out of DJ International and Trax.

So how did Rage start?

Rage was the US thing. Rage used to be on a Thursday and they set up against Spectrum, which was a European thing.

We used to get this guy called Danny Jungle leading the dancefloor, going “Jungle, Jungle!” and before we knew it, jungle was the tag. People started making jungle.

Wasn’t Justin Berkmann and people like that involved?

Yeah. People like Justin Berkmann, Trevor Fung and Colin Faver were much more into the American thing: the imports, the Trax thing; and they were kind of against the whole Spectrum thing. That was the first divide. You’d very rarely meet people who’d go to Spectrum and Rage. We knew the barman there. They didn’t really have DJs at the Star Bar – they just had a guy playing music. When we met Kevin Millins, who ran Rage, he was like, “Do you guys want to do a little thing down here?”

We started upstairs and we had such a massive following. We used to ram out the place because we’d established ourselves as kind of underground heroes. We didn’t know how big it was, though, because we’d never ventured into the club world. One night, Colin Faver and Trevor Fung went to LA and missed their flight back, and Kevin said, “I’m going to take a chance on you guys downstairs tonight.” We went in and smashed the shit out of the place. At the end of the night, everyone was going crazy.

Frank De Wulf - The Tape

We didn’t want to step on Trevor and Colin’s toes, but then we shared the main floor with them and because we was doing something a different – because they were still like, “Yeah, man, we’re strictly US,” and we were playing early techno from Belgium and Germany, like Frank de Wulf and R&S – it was getting so popular that we ended up getting the main set there.

To cut a long story short, we got the Derrick Mays, Kevin Saundersons and Joey Beltrams [of the music world] giving us dubplates. It turned into less of a hardcore place and more of a techno place. We’d get these B-side mixes from Masters At Work that used to have straight-up breaks on it, which we’d speed up and mix into the techno. We saw that whenever we did that, people were getting euphoric. Like, “This is something new.”

Potential Bad Boy - New Style

We used to get this guy called Danny Jungle leading the dancefloor, going “Jungle, Jungle!” and before we knew it, jungle was the tag. People started making jungle. Living Dream was an early label, along with Ibiza Records, and we had a set full of this way out-there breakbeat stuff. We used to mix The Prodigy into “Mentasm”: the craziest mixture of extreme madness.

Rage turned from being this kind of poser night, with loads of girls and well-dressed people, to being ghetto, man. We ghettoed out the whole fucking place until it got shady. It added to the whole vibe of the night, though. You didn’t know whether you were gonna get killed down there or not, but then Kevin started to get a bit like, “Guys, it’s getting a bit on top in here, we’ve really alienated our old crowd.”

Were there any real incidents?

There was nothing major, a few rucks, but we did used to get a few of the big dealers coming in there. It started to get a little bit like that but nothing ever really happened. I think the old guard got a bit threatened. Certain DJs – well-known soulful house DJs – actually made formal complaints to him. Said stuff like, “These guys are betraying what Rage was all about.” Unfortunately, the night closed because of that. We had a meeting and he said, “Listen guys, you’re really going to have to change the music. You’re gonna have to go back to playing house because I don’t really like the crowd and security are getting a bit...” And he shut the night, man.

When did it close?

I think it was ’93.

When you were experimenting with the breakbeats, were you conscious you were pushing things in a certain direction?

No. We didn’t have a fucking clue. Because we were hated on by the more soulful DJs, we thought that maybe we were doing the wrong thing for a while, but it just worked. Rage was a total experiment and it felt like an experiment. We never used to play music like that anywhere else, but in that big club, where we had carte blanche to do what we wanted, it was Fabio and Grooverider’s house and we just did whatever the fuck we wanted to do. Looking back on it, people aren’t that brave any more. That’s probably one of the reasons that dance music’s got slightly stagnant. No one would dare to do that any more. It really was, at the time, so out there. We really got people’s backs up with Rage.

And the press just slagged it...

No. At the start, the press slagged hardcore: “Charly,” and things like that. Mixmag put it on the cover and basically laughed it off, saying that this sound was a fucking joke. But they loved jungle because that cartoonish element [of hardcore] wasn’t there in jungle. Jungle was aggressive and abrasive: Buju Banton sampled over breakbeats. It was a real ghetto thing and that’s how this ridiculous urban thing started with everybody as well: “Oh, it’s black music, we love black music, we love this, it’s the new punk, but it’s like black punk.” There was so much bullshit going on.

When did jungle become drum & bass?

That happened in about ’96.

Any explanation as to how and why it happened?

The whole tag “jungle” took on a real sinister feeling. It just got so smashed in the press. We were like, “If we’re going to carry on we’re gonna have to change the name, because we’re getting slaughtered here.” Then the ragga thing kind of went and it turned into drum & bass. It all fell apart in ’98, though. We were getting totally slagged off for the music. Everyone was like, “Drum & bass has died.” That was the headline for 18 months and then garage came along – the death knell for drum & bass. That was the biggest kick in the teeth for us, ever.

And they had all the girls…

Yeah! It was where all the girls went from the jungle scene. Garage got so big so quickly – so flavor of the month – and drum & bass was just, nothing. We didn’t even have a review section in magazines, and there were no club listings for what we were doing. It was like we’d died. Coming to the modern day, though, now, drum & bass is as big as it’s ever been. I feel that this year [2005] is a real turning point for the music. It’s been around for a long time and everyone’s got over the fact that we’re gonna be here now. We’re not going anywhere.

Rhythim Is Rhythim - Strings of Life

What about the Sunrise parties and the outdoor raves that you did?

Sunrise was the craziest times, man. I got into it because I knew a few guys that were selling tickets. At my first gig there I played the warm up set, 9PM-10PM. Colin Faver had the nightmare of nightmares when he was DJing. I don’t know what happened, but everyone was throwing things at him.

The promoter was like, “Colin, get off. Fabio, have you still got your records?” I put on “Strings Of Life.” Man, I’d never even heard “Strings of Life,” and I’m not claiming to be the first man to play it, but it was the first time it got played at Sunrise. Everyone stood there and… you couldn’t direct this in a film. It was like Close Encounters. When it started building up, it just went off. I could have played that record all night and everyone would have went home and said, “I had the best night I’ve ever had in my life.”

What was it like doing business with some of these guys?

You got to remember that they were making a clear profit. They never paid for venues. We used to get paid £50 and these guys would walk away with, I heard, silly sums of money: £700,000 clear profit, without the police or the tax man knowing anything about it. What was so surprising was what they used to do. They’d go to the M1 Heston services and have these parties, and the police didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on. You’d have all these people marching into a field and the police used to just stand there – county police, who’d never even seen a black person before – going, “Oh my goodness, what are these people doing in this field, what shall we do? Shall we call the army?”

Then The Sun came out with that rave thing and that blew the whole thing apart: “Yeah, we saw E wrappers, silver wrappers that these druggies take.” It was laughable, but it changed everything. It was never the same again. After that, you got helicopters and police monitoring you, following you around. It was like being subversive. I don’t know if it was the time, but everyone thought everyone was Old Bill. “She’s Old Bill, you know.” “Err, that’s my sister, actually.” It was a really paranoid, really weird time.

We felt glad not to be part of Thatcher’s Britain. We’re fucking outlaws. We’re going around with bandanas on our heads, dancing in the fucking street.

Did you get a kick out of feeling like an outlaw?

You did. But, at the same time, towards the end, it wasn’t fun anymore. You were literally being chased through fields with your records, feeling that you were gonna get all your records confiscated and that it’ll be the end of your career.

But the early days…

We used to get a call from headquarters – the database, which was the house round the corner where they sold the tickets – and they used to literally not know where the rave was going to be until 9PM on the night. They’d be like, “Listen Fab, you might have to play in a field tonight, there might be about 30-35,000 people there. Get your records together and meet us at the services.”

We’d meet in Brixton, in a convoy of 30 or 40 cars, and be like, “Where’s the party?” Then we’d go to the M1, go to Heston services and get another phone call, “It’s here.” You’d drive down, see these dark fields and then all of a sudden you’d see one laser. It was like the Batman sign. “It’s over there!” All of a sudden, you’d look and there’d be 300 cars behind you.

So you didn’t know any more than the punters where it was going to be?

No. And that’s why we used to go there. “What time am I playing?” “Whenever you get here.” It was so impromptu and brilliant. We used to be driving out in the fields and you’d see farmers shouting, “Fuck off out of my field!” In residential areas, in a warehouse, we used to see people sitting with their kids, “What’s going on? This is so scary!” until midday. They were the greatest days, man. I’m not going to witness anything like it again. You did feel like a rebel coming home at 12PM the next day, with a tie-dyed top on, dripping with sweat, walking into a petrol station with bare feet.

You’ve got to remember that this was Thatcher’s Britain and we were like, “Fuck Thatcher! Fuck the Tories!” You really did feel like an outsider. We felt glad not to be part of Thatcher’s Britain. We were nothing to do with you. We don’t do 9-to-5s, man. We’re fucking outlaws. We’re going around with bandanas on our heads, dancing in the fucking street. You had an allegiance with anyone with a smiley badge. That was an insignia. It was like a code. You’d see a smiley badge and you’d be like, “Yeahh, shhhhh.”

This interview was conducted in February 2005 in London. ©

By Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton on June 28, 2016

On a different note